TAG Heuer Interview with Jean-Claude Biver
Why is TAG Heuer going all-out in China as exports to the country slump? How and where is the Carrera Connected so successful? WorldTempus asked TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Claude Biver for some answers.
From TAG Heuer ambassador GEM singing on the Jungfraujoch glacier to the Chinese team competing in the Patrouille des Glaciers and now your two Chinese ambassadors attending the Monaco Grand Prix with a host of Chinese journalists, you are very active in China at a time when exports are plummeting in the region. Why?
As everyone else is bailing out of China, it’s the perfect time to go there! You need to be contrary and do things differently from everyone else. But it’s not just a question of being different. If you invest in China now you get much more return than before. When there are ten people competing for attention it’s difficult to get your voice heard. But now, in China, there is only me in the room and when I clap my hands people pay attention and ask what is going on and they see TAG Heuer.
The second reason is that it’s not over in China. Just because things have slowed down over a few years doesn’t mean that you should stop investing in the region. China is consolidating. Imagine if you had invested in Nestle in 1980: just because the shares dipped in 1984 for some reason doesn’t mean you should have sold them, unless you had some inside information. I have confidence in the Chinese economy and I am convinced that this is just a period of consolidation. Consolidation is necessary because things cannot keep following the same steep upward trend. After this consolidation I think that the market will actually be more solid and more genuine.
You are wearing the new Carrera Connected in rose gold. The watch has been an enormous success but can you tell us where it is already available and where it will be launched next?
So far we have only delivered the watch to four countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany. We have delivered about 20,000 units, plus a few in France, Switzerland and Australia. Now we will start delivering worldwide from June so it will now be well and truly present on the market.
What are your thoughts about the acquisition of the Frédérique Constant Group by Citizen? They also produce a successful smartwatch…
I’m very happy for both of them. Citizen is a big group with competent management and Frédérique Constant is a very interesting brand and is a perfect fit with Citizen, which may not have been the case with other big groups. They both complement each other, so I think it’s a good fit.
Frédérique Constant has brought all its smartwatch technology in-house. Would you consider doing the same?
I think it’s important to point out that the technology behind the mobile telephones that need to be connected to the smartwatch does not exist in Switzerland. There are no Swiss made microchips for telephones, even though there are for NFC payments and various types of sensors. So we cannot “insource” to Switzerland something that does not exist in Switzerland. We have been assembling our own microchips in Switzerland since 1 May and we haven’t even communicated this, because this is just assembly. We cannot replicate the know-how to produce them. It’s like when you buy a Japanese movement and assemble it in Switzerland. That doesn’t make it a Swiss Made watch. It’s not enough. The development and expertise also has to be Swiss. However, the fact that we assemble the watches in Switzerland gives us more flexibility to adapt, with people working overtime and weekends, which is something we could not do if the microchips were assembled elsewhere.
With TAG Heuer we now have a choice ranging from a smartwatch to an affordable tourbillon for 15,000 Swiss francs. Can we expect a perpetual calendar?
Yes, of course! We could do a perpetual calendar for less than 10,000 Swiss francs but we would by no means be the first to do so. There is no reason why we can’t do the same. It’s not on my to-do list but there is no reason why we could not or should not do it.
Over 150 years of watchmaking savoir-faire and technical innovation have made TAG Heuer a global reference in avant-garde sports watches. As it tracked the rise of sports demanding increasingly precise timekeeping, TAG Heuer continually developed its unique capabilities through a long-term vision of what watchmaking is today, and what it will look like tomorrow.Find out more >
All the news >
Contact brand >
All the watches >